Tag Archives: Search

Sputnik, a state-controlled search engine to compete against Yandex and Google

The Sputnik search engine, which is expected to launch anytime in 2014, will be the latest entrant into the search engines list. According to Mashable, Sputnik will be a state-controlled search engine under the Rostelecom telecom service and will be competing directly with the local search giant, Yandex, and Google.

Sputnik

Despite the late entry into this area, many local search engines outside of the United States control a large portion of search traffic. Yandex, for example, generates 62 percent of search in Russia with Google at number two with 25 percent. Search targeting beyond Google is thus an important marketing goal for midsize companies looking to reach more potential customers.

Giving Search Priority

Senior IT executives with search engine experience are well aware that search traffic contributes to smarter commerce. In most cases, such traffic is targeted and has a good chance of conversion. In the case of the Sputnik search engine, the goal is to target ordinary web users at the level of competition with no filtering of objectionable content. IT search professionals can take into consideration these new ways of reaching a new demographics through targeted searches that are bound to show up based on locations or search terms used.

Search traffic offers very targeted leads; people who are looking for a certain product or service with a view to making a purchase. These visitors are usually in a buying mode and having a focused marketing method through search optimization is bound to deliver. By ensuring that content posted on the company website or other online resource is optimized for these search engines, the likelihood of these new entrants picking up this content is drastically improved.

A New Search Avenue Means No Competition

Since the Sputnik search engine is a new entrant, it offers a level playing ground for any brand, organization or entity getting started into search. This is a great opportunity to get some real estate on search and promote brands while offering them the same level of viewership as other established brands. IT executives that are looking to get their feet wet into search are now in a position to onboard and reap real and immediate benefits from search.

In addition, new entrants like Sputnik can offer small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) a new approach to search with nothing to lose. For these midsize enterprises who are likewise new to search, they can go in with everything to gain.

5 Reasons Pinterest is a Better Search Engine than Google

pinterest_badge_redDespite its premise, platform, and overall demographic (crafty women), Pinterest comes out as one of the world’s most accurate search engines. Even better than actual search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sure, it was made as a social media website, and for leisure or entertainment time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less accurate as a searchable device. Whatever the magic formula, Pinterest’s creators seem to have nailed down the best way to search photos without receiving a plateful of spam.

5. Pinterest is more visually appealing

Hosting large, quality photos, Pinterest gives users an accurate overview of each post. This eye-catching perk shows what each link will hold, as well as providing a short customer-written response, so there’s no need to worry about keyword or phrase stuffing. Every single search query is organic.

4. Its results are more dynamic

No matter the topic, Pinterest shows users an array of results and related topics, where traditional search engines tend to stick within a single comfort zone. For instance, if searching “tech,” Pinterest brings up news articles, products, must-have articles, fabric patterns, etc. In contrast, Google shows a mixture of electronic and college websites. Which option is more helpful?

3. It doesn’t correct our spelling or grammar

Non-traditional spelling is practically a norm now; having search terms automatically “fixed” requires a re-search, taking time and falsely adjusting our saved search features. Pinterest sidesteps this auto adjustment, allowing correct searches to take place on a first-time basis. Users save on time and results, all in one helpful swoop.

2. No ads

No pop ups, banners, or videos that play automatically. It’s searching uninterrupted.

1. There’s no spam

Without paid searches or keyword stuffing put into web pages, searches bring up actual relevant information. Users don’t have to waste time scanning for content that relates to their needs, and clicks won’t be wasted on sites scamming for traffic. With Pinterest, users know they’re gaining relevant, organic searches that actually hold useful information – not paragraphs of filler that reads in circles. No scanning, no pop-up ads, and no spammy content. For a population used to all of the above as the everyday norm, Pinterest’s search engine approach is a truly novel idea.

Google Search: More advertising leaves less room for organic results

Google’s corporate motto is “don’t be evil.” When this was unveiled in 1999 / 2000 (attribution claims vary), it was seen as something of a dig at various large companies and the way they operate. Zooming forward to the present day, I find myself wondering if Google are beginning to lose sight of this ethos and become a little drunk on their own power.

I run a number of blogs. One of them has, over the past few years, become rather successful. Now, I don’t mean “earn a fortune, quit my job” successful, but successful enough to attract advertisers, gain loyal readers running into the thousands, win a couple of small awards, and earn me enough money to make the time I spend on it worthwhile.

So, why am I moaning about Google? Well, it started a few months ago, when I began to notice my unique visitors dropping like a stone. I had a chat with an “industry” friend, and he pointed me in the direction of a very interesting article about how Google is slowly “killing off” organic search.

Google Search
Google Search

More advertising, less search results

According to the article, there’s now less and less space on a typical Google search page dedicated to organic results, and more and more dedicated to revenue-generating Google products. The examples in the article include a search for “auto mechanic” where only 13% of screen real estate on a 13” Macbook Air ended up displaying natural search results. A search for “Italian Food” on an iPhone showed NO natural results whatsoever on the first screen (barring one from Google-owned Zagat) and required a scroll through four pages of information before any truly natural results appeared at all.

So how does this affect independent bloggers? In my case, my blog has been at the top of Google’s results for a number of relevant search terms for several years. Now it has dropped down, typically to fourth or fifth place. So why has this happened?

Well, it’s clearly due to one of the recent algorithm updates, but looking at the sites that are now on top reveals little. While one or two may arguably have more “authority,” some are small commercial companies appearing seemingly at random, which tells me that despite Google’s punishing algorithm updates, some sites are still manipulating their rankings with SEO techniques and are slipping through the net.

After spending years creating good content and building readers, Google moves the goalposts, resulting in far fewer people finding my site.

While I know this sounds like “sour grapes,” I’d be less bitter if I truly believed that all the results that have pushed me from the top deserved to be there. I’d find it easier to accept the situation if some didn’t contain vastly out of date content that (personal bias aside) simply doesn’t deserve to be there.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that increasingly, the only way to ensure people consistently find you on Google is to pay Google. Even if you’re doing well in the organic results right now, the next algorithm change may plunge you into obscurity, especially when Google’s page layouts now mean that even being on the first page of the natural results doesn’t mean anyone will see you without lots of scrolling.

Google built its popularity on being fast, clear and fair. It would be a terrible shame if that “don’t be evil” slogan came back to bite it.

“Focus on the User” inserts competing social network links into Google search results

what Google should beWhen Google launched “Search Plus Your World”  (SPYW) it took a big step toward becoming the company that everyone loves to hate. By integrating search results from the Google+ network into your regular search, plenty of people cried foul. And not just the ones working for Twitter and Facebook.

By excluding results from other social networks, critics claim that Google is tampering with search results to promote its Facebook/Twitter competitor. One of those critics is Focus on the User (fotu), and it is doing something about it. They explain the problem with SPYW and their solution in this video:

The idea is that Google+ profiles and posts may not be as useful as what those users post to other social networks, so fotu gives you the option of finding what’s in those social networks that are complaining about SPYW. They have a bookmarklet that will take any Google search result that is enhanced with SPYW and add links to timely, relevant information in other social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Quora.

As for me, I’m not convinced that this is the problem that fotu makes it out to be. Google has options such as “Verbatim” mode and “Hide personal results” that minimize SPYW, and the offending Google+ profiles don’t appear on every search. If you search for the word “politics,” you get three results linking to Google+ profiles. Search for “mitt romney,” there are none.

Unfortunately, the fotu bookmarklet doesn’t seem to do much to correct the problem. When you click on the bookmarklet (which is titled “don’t be evil”), you still get the same Google+ links but with other social network links. It still relies on Google to choose profiles from its Google+ social network. You will not get the chance to see the profile of someone without a Google+ profile.

Conclusion

This will not be the SPYW killer that Google haters want.  It’s a clever, simple tool that will help you find celebrities’ Twitter and Facebook accounts and demonstrate how Google results can be tweaked for other purposes. Otherwise, it doesn’t do that much.

Make your apartment search easier with Padmapper

Finding an apartment on the internet is equivalent to hopping into a tractor tire and being rolled down a hill. You start at the top with high hopes: using the power of the internet for finding desirable rental properties and listings. From there, though, the process spirals downward. Apartment searching sites are hard to navigate, the contact information for the apartments isn’t always up to date, and worst of all: the places you like don’t have a single opening in the price range or size you are looking for. In the end you are left dizzy, confused, and wondering how you are going to pick up that tire and carry it all the way back to the top of the hill.

We here at Techerator are aware of these apartment searching woes, and have been looking into it with mild intensity. Although we may not have a sure-fire solution to fixing every single issue in the search process, we do know of a site that is a pretty good place to start. May we present: Padmapper.

This is Padmapper

This is the map for the main page of Padmapper

Padmapper is an aggregate site that not only compiles readily available apartments from sites like Rent.com and Craiglsist, but then turns the intensity up to 11 by throwing them into Google Maps based on their location. So basically, it’s a map filled with available pads. The name truly says it all.

This little box in the bottom left corner is where the pad searching begins. You select a U.S. city, choose your rent pricing scheme as well as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and then hit “Go” to see apartment complexes have available in the area. Other options like pets, lease options, and keywords can also be used to filter down the apartment results on the map.

Zero bedrooms?
Shown left to right: Details, Streetview, and Walkscore

Once the filters have been engaged, one can then click on the filtered available apartments on the map (the little red flags) and see who is offering the open apartment, how much it is compared to the average price of rent in the area, and contact information. The apartment listing also shows you the Google Streetview of the area (if available), as well as the area’s Walk Score, or rather its walk-ability based on amenities like restaurants, schools, shopping, and metro transit stations in the vicinity based on community input and a fancy algorithm. Furthermore, if you create an account with Padmapper you can also save pads to your favorites for evaluation later.

Besides supplying open apartments in a topographical setting, Padmapper also has some not so “Super Secret Advanced Features” in the bottom left search panel that can assist one in their apartment reconnoitering.

Super Secret Advanced Features

The first is the commute time overlay. By entering your work address, Padmapper will provide a nice green blob that shows the region in which apartments are within the area of the commute time specified. For example, the picture above shows a 20 minute commute region and the major freeways one would use to travel from a future apartment to work. Of course, this does not include traffic times in the calculation.

For those of us who have forgone the modern combustible engine vehicle and opted for the beautiful sights and loving community of the public transit system for our commute, Padmapper has an overlay just for that as well (although the city you’re looking at must have a metro transit system before this will work, mind you). That way all available apartments can be referenced to a transit stop or subway line.

Finally, the last overlay that is helpful is a graphical diagram of the city’s Walk Score, based on the items mentioned earlier. If one is confused with the color coding, green means that the area is filled with good vibes like short walk times to transit locations, parks, and amenities, and red means…well the opposite of easy access via walking. The whole methodology on Walk Score can be seen here.

The other two overlays (The Spot Crime and Neighborhood ones) are for crime reports and ratings and for quick information on the city region from Wikipedia, respectively. The SpotCrime overlay is not featured for all cities just yet, but rest assured it will be sooner or later.

In Closing

Padmapper definitely has the potential to be highly beneficial to the burdens of apartment searching (hence why we are reporting on it). The rentals shown are readily available, precisely located, and filtered to please any need. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any individual apartment reviews on Padmapper just yet, so you might have to check out the rental properties on a site like Apartment Ratings to see if the management is kind as a rabbit or as lethargic as a hippopotamus. But besides an apartment review feature, Padmapper pretty much encompasses everything else one would consider when looking for that next place. And that is aces in our book.

At the bottom of the website, Padmapper states its motto: “Making Apartment Hunting Suck Less.” And truthfully, we could not have said it better.

Make Your Searches More Social With Wajam

How do you find out about things? I’m talking about things like interesting places to visit while on vacation, a good place to eat, whether or not a particular bicycle seat is worth buying. Well, that and more.

Chances are you take one of two routes. One, you turn to your favorite search engine. Or two, you ask a friend or someone in your social network a question or three.

What if you were able to combine those two approaches and make your searches a bit more social? Well, Wajam tries to do just that. And, for the most part, it succeeds.

Wajam?

Let’s look at the concept and the technology. The idea behind Wajam is to improve the results that a search engine returns by combining those results with mentions of, say, that product or place from your online social network. More on how to combine the two in a few paragraphs.

Wajam itself is a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Once installed, it works in the background and adds results derived from your social network to the results from Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Blekko.

Getting started

Head over to the Wajam and log in using either your Twitter or Facebook login information. Wajam links to your account. When you start searching (more on this in a moment), will add hits from your network. And once you’ve logged in, you can download and install the extension for your browser.

But what happens if, say, you logged in using your Facebook account but want to add your Twitter account to Wajam? On the Wajam Web site, click the Sources tab. Then, click the icon for Twitter.

Wajam Sources tab

But it’s not just your Twitter and Facebook friends. If you have an account with the bookmarking service Delicious, you can link that account to Wajam. You can also upload a bookmark file from your computer to the Wajam dashboard. That’s a potentially great feature: using your past choices to help enhance your searches.

Using Wajam

There are two ways you can do that. The first way is to head over to your favorite search engine and plug in a search. The search engine will do its thing, but at the top of the results Wajam adds mentions from your social networks about what you’re searching for.

Wajam search results

If one of the results from Wajam fits you bill, then just click a link to jump to that page. You’ll notice the Wajam toolbar at the top of the page. You can use the toolbar to share what you’ve found on Facebook or Twitter.

Wajam toolbar

The second way to search is within Wajam itself. When logged in, click the Home tab. You’re taken to a search engine that actually combs your social networks and uploaded bookmarks (if any) for matches.

Wajam internal search

Click a link to open it. Again, you reach the page you get the Wajam toolbar that lets you share that page on Facebook or Twitter.

On the other hand …

The results themselves can vary. For example, I wanted to find some places to do indoor bouldering in Toronto (where I live) — I searched for bouldering Toronto using Google. The results that came back from Wajam were … well, interesting. I got a tweet from a musician who did a show in Toronto, and a pointer to a blog mentioning a company with an office in Boulder, Colorado. The results from Google, in this case, were more focused.

Also, the freshness of the information can be a bit of a problem. The two results I mentioned in the last paragraph were two months and two years old, respectively. You can sort the results by relevance, newest mentions, and older mentions. But a useful addition to Wajam would be a way to set a range of dates over which to perform a search.

While Wajam has an extension for Google Chrome, I wasn’t able to download and install it in Chromium (the Open Source version of Chrome). That’s strange, because every other Chrome extension I’ve tried with Chromium has installed and has worked.

Final thoughts

Wajam takes search to an interesting new place. By adding a social element, your search results are potentially better targeted and focused to your needs. And, you’d hope, with that social element you’re also getting an element of trust in your results — opinions or just links from people whose opinions matter to you.

I’m not sure that Wajam fully achieves those goals. At least, not yet. But it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at Wajam.

Greplin: Your Personal Search Engine

GreplinIf you use more than a couple of web applications, you know how difficult it can be to find things in those applications. Sure, services like Google Docs and Gmail have great built-in search, but services like Dropbox and Twitter … well, not so much.

With Greplin, you can search a number of popular web applications not just for files, but also words and phrases.

Let’s take a look at how to set up and use Greplin.

Getting Started

Head over to Greplin and sign up for an account. It’s free, although there are paid options (more on these in a bit). Once you’re in Greplin, click the Add button — it’s the green button with the plus sign in the middle. A list of Web applications and services that Greplin works with will appear.

Choose your service

At the moment, Greplin only works with 20 apps and services. To work with nine of those, you need to get a paid account. With three others, you can get access by referring other people to the service. So that leaves you with Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts.

Searching with Greplin

You won’t be able to search immediately. Greplin has to index your accounts first. According to the developers, that takes about 20 minutes or so. Maybe a bit longer. So, go off and do some work or have a cup of tea while you’re waiting.

Search here

OK, let’s assume that 20 minutes have passed. Head back over to Greplin and start searching. The first way is to type the word or phrase that you’re looking for in the search box. Doing this will search all of the applications and services that you set up in Greplin for that term. That could be a lot of results.

To narrow things down a bit, click the dropdown list beside the search box. You can search:

  • The names of contacts
  • In your Twitter streams
  • Messages in Twitter and Facebook
  • Files

You can also select the any one of the applications and services that you set up to work with Greplin.

The results of a search

Once Greplin returns the results, click on any header to open that result in a new browser tab or window.

Limitations

There are a few. The biggest is the limited number of services with which Greplin works. It tackles 20 of the biggest names, but a few are missing. And to get access to about half of them, you need to pay $4.99 a month (or $49.99 a year). That’s not overly expensive, especially if you need to index and search a lot of material.

What you can search depends on the web application or service. With Dropbox, for example, Greplin doesn’t index and search text. It only indexes and searches file names. So if you plan to use Greplin as a search engine for Dropbox, remember to name your files descriptively. You can find a list of what Greplin can search here.

Still, if you need to find that tweet or that file you’ve archived online, then Greplin is a good option. It’s easy to use and fast. And it’s convenient.

Ask Techerator: How can I search by only File Name in Windows 7?

Techerator team:

I’ve just switched from Windows XP/Office 2003 to Windows 7/Office 2010.  Before, I could easily find files in Word & Excel by simply typing a word that I knew was in the filename….

Now with Windows7/Office 2010, by searching in the upper right corner search box, the directory instead lists all the files which have that word anywhere in the body or the title.  It produces a ton more results and makes it hard to find what I want without going down a long list.  Do you know how I can make it search only the titles of files, not the body?

I have to say, this same problem was a bother to me as well. With Windows 7, Microsoft significantly “upgraded” the search functionality with an improved indexing service with the ability to search not only file names, but the actual contents of the files as well.

I’m not trying to say this is a bad feature; it certainly is very useful. I just find it odd that Microsoft would completely remove the old functionality, the ability to search only by file name. Now every user has to re-learn how to find a document to which he or she knows the file name offhand. Fortunately, the functionality is still there, the users just have to work harder.

The key to the new Windows 7 search are “search filters,” which allow the user to specify which part of the file to search in. Start typing a keyword in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the window, and a little drop-down menu will appear with these search filters. The two visible are probably useful in the most unrealistic of scenarios: “Date modified” and “Size.”

Apparently, you should just know that a search filter called “Name” exists. Using this search filter will only look in the file name (and folder name) for the search, and you won’t have to worry about every single Office document containing the word “hello” appearing in your search results.

So there it is. To search by only filename, prefix your search with name:, followed by the word or words you wish to find. It’s so simple, yet so user-unfriendly. I think I’ll get back to scratching my head about this one.

Google Adds Instant Previews to Your Search Results

Hey Googlers, if Instant Search wasn’t enough for you, Google has been rolling out a new feature called Instant Previews.  Instant Previews show you a visual preview of your search results, and let you quickly locate the information you wanted.

Instant Previews isn’t turned on by default yet, but you can try it for yourself here.  After clicking the blue Try It Now button, search for something on Google.  You’ll now see small magnifying glass icons next to search results.

2010-11-09 20h48_07

Clicking the magnifying glass will instantly pull up an image of the site.  Once you’ve opened an Instant Preview, you can simply hover your mouse over other links to display their preview, which is a great way to compare websites.

To help you find exactly what you’re looking for on a page, Instant Previews will automatically highlight relevant information to your search term in the preview window.  Check out the image below from when I searched for kettle potato chip recipes.

2010-11-09 20h56_42

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out the rest of our tips and guides about Google!

Two Great Alternatives to GOOG-411

Did you know that Paranormal Activity 2 is Playing at AMC Kent Station in Kent, WA at 10:00pm and 12:15am tonight; it is currently clear and 46 degrees in Cando, ND; regular gasoline is $2.51 at the Sinclair station at 800 W Hampden Ave in Sheridan, CO; and today is a 9 out of 10 day for anyone whose astrological sign Cancer?

Why do I know all of this? Is it because I have way too much time on my hands? That, or maybe I’ve been on the phone with Bing 411 for half an hour, or perhaps both.

As I’m sure most of you have heard, Google is shutting down Goog411, its directory-assistance service that uses voice recognition to connect callers to businesses, on November 12.

Instead of leaving you alone in the cold, dark world, I’ve put together a list of a few alternates to the service that you can use once Google has pulled the plug.

Bing 411 (1-800-BING411 / 1-800-246-4411)

The first alternative I tried to Goog-411 was Bing 411. Now, the reason I spent half an hour on the phone with Bing411 was because of the large amount of options offered. When you first call  Bing411 you are given the option to “Tell me my choices” to which Bing411 replies with Driving Directions, Traffic, Weather, Movies, Sports, Stock Quotes, Cheap Gas, Horoscopes, News, Time, Travel, and Favorites.  That is more than a few options. I’ll give you a brief run-down of what each option will do for you.

Driving Directions

Pretty straight forward, say your current location and your desired destination and Bing411 will give you step by step directions via voice on your phone or, should you want it, a text message.

Traffic

Like Driving Directions Plus. Say your location and desired destination. Bing411 will then give you a few different routes with traffic density and estimated travel time.

Weather

The weather option is really what you would expect from a weather option. It tells you the weather.

Movies

This was probably the most in depth option I found on Bing411.  You have the option of searching for a movie, or a theater. Searching for a movie gives you a list of theaters currently showing it. Choosing one gives you the option of connecting to it by phone or being sent the information by text. If you search for a theater near you, you’re given all the theaters in your area. Choosing one will give you all the movies playing and their play times.

Sports

I was pretty disappointed with the sports option. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I searched for the Green Bay Packers all Bing 411 gave me was the result of their last game and date and time of their next one.

Cheap Gas

When I chose cheap gas for Denver, CO , I received a list of gas stations with their prices of regular unleaded gas.

Horoscope

Give Bing your sign and get a prediction for the day. No word on how accurate it is though. Today is supposed to be a 9/10 day for me so let’s hope for the best.

News

Pick news and you get a broad range of choices such as top stories, technology, sports, etc. Pick a category and you’ll get an update on news in that area. Searching technology got me  a story about police in England using social media sites to track criminals.

Free 411 (1-800-FREE411 / 1-800-373-3411)

Free 411 was the only other voice recognition 411 number I could find. The amount of options are quite a bit fewer than Bing. The options are to search for Government, Business, Residential, Weather, and Horoscopes.

The Government, Business, and Residential options just lookup the name/address of whatever your are looking for. After you find the location you’re looking for you can have the address/phone number texted to your phone.

The weather option gives you basic current weather in any city and state.

Horoscope was very similar to Bing’s just gives you a prediction. Again I can’t say much for the accuracy. I’ll let you know if before the night is done an unexpected lover sweeps me off my feet.

An interesting feature I found with Free 411 was if you call it back after you’ve made a search it will give you the option to “repeat last number” in case you forgot the one you just got.

Conclusion

These are the only two voice recognition services available that I could find as suitable replacements for GOOG-411. Of the two, Bing411 has way more options and a lot more depth and features. Free411 is good especially if you’re just looking for directions to somewhere.

As far as their ability to recognize what I was saying, Free411 seemed to pick up what I was saying a little better. Also it was a lot more responsive. Bing wouldn’t let me interrupt it very easily. It seemed like I had to listen to a certain amount of an option before I could say something and skip the rest.

As far as ads are concerned, Bing had significantly fewer. It seemed that Bing’s ad scheme was set up on a timer and every so often you’d get one. On Free411 you got an ad when you started and when you finished a search and every time you started over.

They are both useful if you’re looking for a 411 type voice service. Personally, I was  interested in the various text based services such as previously covered Google SMS (Text 466453) or Yahoo! SMS (Text 92466) search. These allow you to do basically everything that their voice counterparts to, but just with a simple text. For example, text Sushi 94040 and receive the name and address of all the sushi joints close to that zipcode.

Have an alternative to GOOG-411 I didn’t cover? Post it in the comments below!